PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (February 9, 2005) The U.S. Men’s National Team came away with an important three points in their first match of the final round of FIFA World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region with a 2-1 victory over Trinidad & Tobago on Wednesday at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Eddie Johnson and Eddie Lewis paced the U.S. with goals in each half as goalkeeper Kasey Keller held off a late offensive surge from Trinidad & Tobago.
Johnson continued his stellar output with the U.S. MNT, putting his name into the record book a couple more times after heading home a Steve Cherundolo cross from outside the area to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead in the 30th minute. Lewis provided the U.S. with what turned out to be the game-winner in the 54th minute on a 23-yard blast just inside the right post, as Trinidad was able to finally sneak one past Kasey Keller in the 89th minute after the U.S. ‘keeper had come up with a number of vital saves.
The U.S. currently sits atop the final round with the rest of the hexagonal opening up tonight as the four other contestants will facing off. Costa Rica hosts Mexico at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa, while Guatemala travels to the Estadio Rommel Fernandez to meet Panama in the host’s first-ever match in the final round of qualifying.
“Obviously it is a great result for the U.S. team,” said U.S. Men’s National Team Manager Bruce Arena. “I think the way our team pulled together over the last couple of weeks to be ready to play this game under difficult conditions was great. It turned out to be a fantastic result for us. Winning qualifying games on the road is a very difficult challenge, and to pull it off in the opening game with the issues we were dealing with is fantastic. I am very pleased.”
With his eight-yard header into the lower right side, Johnson became the first player in MNT history to score in his first four matches and tied William Looby (1955) and Brian McBride (2001) as the only players to score goals in four consecutive games.
Johnson now has six goals in four games (all World Cup qualifiers) with the MNT and is already tied for third in all-time World Cup qualifying scoring for the U.S., just one behind McBride and three behind Earnie Stewart. He is also 23rd on the all-time goal scoring chart for the U.S. MNT after just 223 minutes of career action.
The U.S. extended their record-setting unbeaten streak to 14 games and now holds a 11-1-3 lifetime record against the Soca Warriors, including an unblemished 7-0-2 mark in World Cup qualifying. Since 1994, the U.S. has played 24 games against Caribbean teams, compiling a perfect 16-0-8 record during that span.
After a quiet beginning, the U.S. began pushing forward and got their first shot on goal in the 20th minute after a cleared corner. With the ball bouncing, Pablo Maestroeni pulled the trigger from 35 yards out, dipping the ball toward the crossbar before Hislop was able to get his right hand up to parry it over the bar.
Four minutes later, Johnson collected a ball at the top of the box and dribbled into the penalty area before hitting a quick back heel for DaMarcus Beasley, who’s first-time strike was deflected out for a corner by Marvin Andrews. Landon Donovan ran onto a through ball by Eddie Pope inside the penalty area and hit a shot from a tough angle just outside the six-yard box that hit the outside of the net.
In the 34th minute, a cross found Stern John between Pope and Cherundolo at the top of the box, but Keller was able to fall to his right to bring in the former Columbus Crew forward’s header.
The U.S. came out looking to double their lead early in the second half and just missed an opportunity in the 52nd minute when Hislop came up with a big save on Donovan. Johnson pushed the ball towards the endline on the right side before pulling the ball back across the goalmouth where Donovan was making a trailing run, but he couldn’t bury his strike from the penalty spot as Hislop was able to come up with a kick save to keep it a one-goal game.
Trinidad turned right around and almost took immediate advantage of Hislop’s save, but Keller topped the Trinidad ‘keeper with a magnificent save of his own. Yorke put a ball over the U.S. defense giving Fitzpatrick a breakaway on goal, but Keller came off his line, planted himself and cleared the ball from the midfielder’s feet.
Less than a minute later, Lewis provided the U.S. with the eventual game-winner with a rocket just inside the right post for his first goal ever in qualifying. On the build-up, Johnson played Donovan who pushed the ball square to his left for the midfielder’s left-footed strike that Hislop had no chance to save.
In the 74th minute, substitute Cornell Glen collected a quick touch from John near the top-left corner of the penalty area and ripped a shot on goal, but Keller was positioned well to make the save out for a corner.
Trinidad finally broke through in the 89th minute when Angus Eve received a pass from Anton Pierre, dribbled to the endline at the six yard box and knocked in a cross along the endline for a streaking John. Keller tried to block the cross, but the ball ended up deflecting off his outstretched arms and bouncing into the net.
With three minutes of extra time added, Trinidad tried to find the hopeful equalizer, but the U.S. defense was able to hold off their attack.
Clint Dempsey earned his second cap in his second qualifying match, coming on as a substitute in the 66th minute.
The U.S. Men’s next match of the final round of qualifying is against Mexico on March 27 at the dreaded Estadio Azteca in the high altitude of Mexico City. The United States has never beaten Mexico in Mexico, holding on all-time record of 0-21-1, which includes a 0-17-1 mark in Mexico City and a 0-7-1 mark at Estadio Azteca.
In World Cup qualifying play, the U.S. is 3-13-5 against Mexico and 0-10-1 in Mexico City. The USA’s last World Cup qualifying match against Mexico was a 1-0 loss in Estadio Azetca on July 1, 2001. Since that 2001 World Cup qualifying match, the U.S. has shutout Mexico in their last four matches, holding the Tricolores scoreless for 434 minutes over the five-game span.